“Holy Hollywood…! — banking on the BIBLE

Shout hallelujah and pass the popcorn!

Churches and Bible study groups will soon have competition from Hollywood as cine-plexes, Netflix, RedBox, Movies-on-Demand, Hula, etc. make way for holy film productions 2014-style.  As back in the heyday of such boffo box office extravaganzas as Best Picture Oscar-winning Ben-Hur (1959), star-studded Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), hippy mock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) youth-oriented King of Kings (1961), first wide-screened The Robe (1956), pectorially impressive Samson and Delilah (1949), Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments (1956), the more recent and controversial Passion of the Christ (2004) and even animated musical Prince of Egypt (1998), irreverent profit-focused studio conglomerates hope again to cash in on the Holy Bible.   In the best money-lenders-at-the-temple tradition, the miraculous more than three billion dollar revenue made by such pop culture popular Christian-related movies from just the second half of the twentieth century has self-serving movie makers back for additional loot.

The already released TV-spinoff Son of God (2014) womb-to-tomb+resurrection story of Jesus leads the way to yet more movies about other well-known holy writ personages.  During the remainder of 2014, familiar Sunday school tales of yore will be adapted into sword/sandle epics with traditionally pious who’s who of Bible greats in the guise of lucratively franchised 3D IMAX FX trendy graphically violent comic book superheroes.  Boffo box office Christian (Batman) Bale, Nicholas (Leaving Las Vegas) Cage, Russell (Gladiator) Crowe, Mel (Mad Max) Gibson, Brad (World War Z) Pitt, Will (Men in Black) Smith, even The Rock, with a new demographically appealing Latino Lord star.   Come hell or high water, count Abel and Cain (sibling rivalry), David and Goliath (bullying), Mary (childcare), Moses (liberation), Noah (ecology), Pontius Pilate (law) among the Hollywood divine to arrive soon at a theater near you.

With more money grubbing than soul saving involved, there’s always the threat of good Christian folk condemning rather than praising disputable interpretations of such blessed subject matter.  And, Heaven help the producers inciting such pesky matters as boycotts and picket lines, which was the case with the perplexing hubby,/wife,/kiddies family man portrayal of Jesus in Martin Scorcese’s contentiously snubbed and financially disastrous Last Temptation of Christ (1988).  Such controversy begats bad word-of-mouth which in turn begats the cardinal show biz sin of poor ticket sales.

Even if such everlastingly hallowed characters are so mercenarily transformed, Christians themselves can’t go wrong.  If a movie is viewed as a sacrosanct endorsement of Holy Scripture, they sell out massive blocks of tickets (as has already been the case) to insure success.  If a movie is seen as a profane misstatement of God’s word, the nice new Pope and holy-roller preachers insure failure by condemning their flock who see it.

Never appearing as a swarthy olive-complexioned stubble-faced short stocky cranky Semitic man with coarse, wiry or curly shoulder length or shorter haired, realistic consideration to Holy Land origins is typically ignored.  When tall, dark, handsome, long-haired, bearded, stapingly sturdy nice guy movie star Saviors attract more ticket sales, trendy Jesus is the go-to-guy.  Though far afield from their Almighty namesake, in lieu of first century selfies or on-site renderings, there’s just no beating the ethnically inaccurate:

(A)   1. way too young and attractive for his own good blue-eyed King of Kings, Jeffrey Hunter;

(A-)  2. intense blood ‘n guts sado-masochistic blue-eyed  Passion of the Christ, Jim Caviezel;

(B+) 3. personably alluring Portuguese hashtag Son of God hottie tamale, Diogo Morgado.

With respect to this most prepossessing ever trio of Jesus Christ hunks, commercial interests quite visibly trump anthropological faithfulness.  As a result of such Hollywood deification, the Proverb-ial (3:6) “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” sounds blasphemous rather than devout.

—W.W. Spencer, NSB-side, FL 

1 Comment to “Holy Hollywood…! — banking on the BIBLE

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Warren….

    Looking forward to your review of the new film “Noah.” A critic at IndieWire.com gave it a mostly negative review but did admire the special effects.
    Somewhere on the Internet, I read that there have been more than 100 movie depictions of Christ over the past century. I enjoyed “Last Temptation” — both the novel and the movie — because it emphasized the humanness of Jesus. Do you know if the Terrence McNally play about Jesus being gay ever made it into a cinematic version? I know there was talk of doing it, but maybe the numerous picketings of the play scared off potential investors. While Jesus-as-gay could be farfetched, I think some director needs to make at least one of the disciples gay or bi, probably John. The Scriptures don’t really explain why or how the disciples left their occupations and started following around an itinerant preacher. Yes, perhaps they were simply forerunners of our modern Deadheads and not very work-oriented, but I suspect the charisma of Jesus might have had a homoerotic aspect for at least one of them (statistically speaking.) Or maybe Jesus had the magical powers of the Pied Piper of Hamlin (the Jerry Garcia effect?) although none of the Scriptures speak of him playing a mean harp or flute. — Tom at KingChamp Books